We all saw the Dell Streak fail in the market because of the large 5-inch display. Users were not very impressed with the large size; it was meant to be a cross between a tablet and a phone but proved to be too bulky for convenient usage. However, recently, large screen smartphones are in demand again. The reason: more viewing area for essential apps, such as Internet browsing, emails, entertainment and others. Large screen phones have been hitting the market with manufacturers such as Samsung, Sony, LG and a few others successfully building similar mammoths. We have seen a number of such devices such as the Samsung Galaxy Note, LG Optimus Vu, HTC One X and a few more. The iBall Andi 5c is a cheaper option, but even then are these phones actually worth their price? A large display does not necessarily mean that the device is a good performer.
Video review of the Superfone A100 from Micromax
Micromax has jumped on the same wagon of large display phones and we heard that many others will follow. Micromax has just sent us an A100, the Superfone Canvas. We opened the box with awe and hurried through the specs only to be surprised with what we received. Read ahead and find out what we discovered, liked and hated.
Design and build quality
The A100 is the latest from Micromax. The moment we opened the package, the phone reminded us of the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, as the A100 closely resembles the latter. The only way one would make out that the phone is from Micromax is the sober looking Micromax logo on the rear panel. The A100 is slightly thicker at 11.9 mm and weighs around 167 grams. Though a tad thick, the phone does not feel bulky. The phone has good looks and earned full points for its aesthetics.
Looks similar to the Galaxy Nexus
The A100 has a superb look and a sturdy build quality. The entire front face is highly glossy and mishandling the phone could lead to bad scratches and shabby looking dents. The back panel is no different—though it sports a good matte finished exterior, the curved back can get scratched easily if not kept on a flat, clean surface. The front face has absolutely no buttons, either capacitive or physical. The Home, Menu, Search and Back buttons are all on-screen (similar to a tablet interface) as part of the operating system interface. This may be considered a good feature as the entire phone looks like a display panel and you get a larger display area with no distracting button backlights especially when watching a video. But third party ROM developers will have to make sure these buttons are included in the ROM itself. The front also features a VGA camera for video chatting, a speaker for voice calls and a few usual sensors such as light and proximity. The right side has the power button while the left features the volume rocker. The top and bottom feature the audio jack and microUSB connection respectively. Microphone grills, one each on the top and the bottom, are featured for noise cancellation and voice calls respectively. The rear panel sports the 5 megapixel camera, an LED flash and a speaker.
5MP camera with LED flash
Features and performance
We did think this smartphone would sport a dual core processor as the recent trend is towards phones with dual core and quad core processors. But sadly, we found it to be a single core ARM v7 processor clocked at 1GHz. It also uses an Adreno 200 GPU and the RAM supplied is just 512MB. The internal storage is said to be 4GB, but we found the capacity is to be shared between the ROM, app storage and user data. The storage can be expanded using an external microSD card. The microSD card is hot-swappable, which means you can conveniently remove or change it without having to switch off the phone and remove the battery.
11.9 mm thick
The display is large at 5 inches and sports a resolution of 480 x 782. It is a multi-touch capacitive screen and can simultaneously recognise up to 5 fingers or touch points. The display is regular and has a scratch guard pre-installed with the product out of the box. The display is not scratch-resistant and you need to be careful about the handling and while tugging it away in your pocket or bag. Images are pretty good and are clear, bright and crisp. The viewing angles are also very good and one can watch videos without any glitch from almost any angle. We witnessed a flaw with the light sensor though. When watching a movie, image or even whilst using the phone, the light sensor seems to be a bit too sensitive and changes the display brightness immediately. This is disturbing, especially while watching a movie or reading something on the Internet, as even a slightest tilt with a varying ambient light changes the brightness of the display. Keeping the display brightness to max did not help either. It could be an issue with the operating system itself.
We ran our usual benchmarks on the phone and were impressed—thanks to the built-in Adreno 200 GPU, the phone does not lag anywhere or falter too much. Linpack gave us results such as 39 MFLOPS in single thread and 37.5 MFLOPS in multi-thread tests. AnTuTu scored 2773 while Quadrant scored 2430. Matching this phone with the latest review of the iBall Andi 5c, we did find this phone to be faster than the latter in most of the tests, but also fell behind in a few of them. The overall experience with the phone was fantastic and we would definitely recommend this phone for those seeing an Android handset with a large-sized crisp display screen, good build quality and great looks.
About phone and Dual SIM settings
The operating system installed is Android ICS v4.0.3 and it uses the stock ICS launcher. The interface is pretty smooth, but can feel a little sluggish at times. You would still need to use an app killer to keep it running smooth till the end. What we found a bit irritating is that the Menu option or button is not present on the main interface. This makes it difficult for older users to get accustomed to, as going directly to the system menu is a tad roundabout. You have to either pull up the app drawer and hit the settings icon or pull down the notification bar and then select the settings icon from there. The notification bar features toggle switches for quickly controlling the Rotate, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, Data, Brightness and alike.
Stock Android ICS interface
The A100 plays media as well as any other smartphone would. Regular standard definition videos played flawlessly and 720p videos played with a slight hitch, but were unnoticeable. The videos are brilliant and crisp with good colour details and sharpness. 1080p videos did play but started framing very badly and were almost useless. But streaming 1080p HD videos from a media server or from YouTube were good enough. Audio playback using the bundled headphones was decent and good enough for casual audio and videos. The headset does not have any inline playback controls and one would need to use the volume keys on the handset for controlling the playback.
The A100 Superfone features standard connectivity options just as any Android phone would. For interfacing between the PC, a microUSB interface and Bluetooth are present, while Internet can be availed using 3G, GPRS or Wi-Fi. The phone features dual SIM mobile networks for GSM + GSM or GSM + WCDMA options. But they feature in dual standby mode, which means you cannot use the two networks simultaneously.
Miscellaneous apps and Freebies
There are no freebies thrown in, but yes, a few preinstalled apps are beneficial to an extent. The best feature here is the pre-installed file manager app which allows you to get started with the phone by directly installing apps from your external SD card. Other free apps installed by Micromax are: SMS, Voice, Store and Zone. These entertainment and messaging apps need to be activated by your mobile service provider though.
Apps and freebies
The camera featured on the A100 is a 5 megapixel shooter with an LED flash. It does not have an autofocus on a hardware level, but this is managed by the camera driver automatically. The camera tests surprisingly gave us above-average results. The image quality is better than any Chinese handset with a 5 MP camera. Outdoor shoots were great with a good balance of colours and sharpness. The indoor shoots were a bit disappointing as the images were grainy and dark because of low light. The flash was not as effective as we expected. But looking at the overall quality of the images we shot, the camera definitely performs better than average. The front camera is 0.3 megapixel and is good enough for video calls and such.
Outdoor shoots are good
We did find a big flaw with the camera and it seems to be a software fault with either the camera’s drivers or the operating system itself. We found that every image and video we shot from the rear camera was actually saved upside down. We figured this out only after we actually transferred and viewed the images and videos on a desktop PC. Images and videos from the front camera were rotated by 90 degrees to the right. Every image or video you shoot would have to be rotated afterwards. Doing this for images would be just a right-click away, but videos would be a pain. We hope Micromax considers this flaw and releases a patch to rectify this problem at the earliest, else this will be a nightmare for its own service centres. We did consider this to be a possible factory defect and asked Micromax to send in another piece to confirm whether the issue is with this handset or all of the A100s. At the time of uploading this article, the replacement piece had not reached us but we are soon to get it and shall update you after testing the other piece. Watch out this space for the update within a few days.
Update – 14-Sept-2012: We did get a fresh piece from Micromax and performed the camera test to confirm the flaw. The problem persists and the images and videos shot by the camera are upside down and rotated right respectively.
Indoor shoots are not as impressive
A decently high-capacity battery of 2000 mAh is supplied with the A100. We did not like the idea of the missing LED indication for the battery charging and hence, you won’t know if the phone is being charged or if it has charged completely. You will need to depress the power button to check if the battery has been charged completely.
We tried running our usual tests on the phone to gauge the battery life, but failed to do so because the phone did not manage to keep the video loop test running. The video would randomly stop playing after anywhere between 5–15 minutes of playback. We think this could again be a problem with the operating system or the internal drivers, as YouTube videos played perfectly fine. We hope this issue too is addressed soon by Micromax. We used the phone as anyone would on an average day-to-day basis: calls, SMS, Internet and music. We managed to get this phone running on a single full charge for at least 18 hours at a stretch before finally plugging in the charger. The company claims the phone can give you a talk time of around 5 hours while it can remain on standby for at least 180 hours. Speaking about battery life, we assume smartphones are often charged at office and at home where a charger is available. This also involves charging during data transfers, which keeps the battery life prolonged. It is only when you are outdoors for a longer stretch of time when the battery life will actually be reduced. Do note that if you are constantly travelling, the battery life is constantly being reduced due to varying distances between the cell tower and the phone, and also due to the ambient lighting conditions which adjust the display brightness.
Considering the phone has a 1GHz processor with an Adreno 200 GPU and a large 5-inch display, and selling at a sweet price of Rs 9,900 (MOP), the A100 is an excellent buy. The crisp and large display is good for enjoying videos while on the move, the audio quality of the headphones is decent, the camera quality is above average and the user interface is pretty smooth. If you are to consider this phone and are willing to ignore the camera flaw, we definitely recommend this phone. This is one of the cheapest, branded Android-based handset with the largest screen on the market available for a price below the Rs 10,000 range at this stage. The handset has very good aesthetics and definitely does not look cheap or bulky.
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